Expanding Your Horizons with Dynamic DNS
Would you like to host your own website but think you can't because your DSL or Cable modem provider saddled you with a dynamic IP address? We'll show you how you can run a Web server and more even with a static IP address. Plus we'll show you a quick and easy way to get access to your office PC while at home or on vacation.
By Ron Pacchiano
Q. I just recently started studying for my MCSE and there are a number of different things I would like to try. For example, I'd like to set up and host my own web server and e-mail and even experiment with Virtual Private Networks (VPN). The problem is I have a cable modem with a dynamic IP address, while all of these items require you to have a static IP address. I checked with my cable company and in order to get a static IP address I would need to upgrade my service from a residential to a business account. This would almost triple what I'm currently paying. Is there any way for me to do all of these things using my current cable account and dynamic IP address? I really can't afford the extra expense to upgrade right now.
A. There is no need to upgrade your service from a residential to business account just to get the (supposed) advantages of a static IP address. A more cost-effective solution would be to sign up for a service called Dynamic DNS. With the Dynamic DNS service you can host a website, email server, RAS server or anything else that would normally require a static IP address. The Dynamic DNS service also allows you to associate a dynamic IP address with an Internet Domain Name.
The way this service works is quite simple and typically consists of two parts. The first is a software client that runs on your server, while a second software client runs on the Dynamic DNS servers. The software client installed on your server constantly monitors the server's IP address. When the IP address changes, the software client reports that change to the Dynamic DNS servers. The Dynamic DNS servers then update their records with your server's new IP address. This continual updating process allows the Dynamic DNS server to seamlessly forward any incoming requests for your domain to your server. So regardless of how many times youre IP address changes, your server will remain accessible.
One of the best providers of Dynamic DNS service is TZO.com. TZO charges $59.95 for one year of Dynamic DNS service. For more information on TZO.com's pricing and services, visit http://www.tzo.com/MainPageServices/index.html. Another popular Dynamic DNS service provider is DynDNS.org (http://www.dyndns.org).
Q. I work for a small architecture firm in New York City and spend most of my time out of the office visiting client sites. More times than I care to admit, I have been at a client site and realized that I did not have all of the files I needed. Either they were inadvertently left on my office PC or they were not finished in time to take with me. As a potential solution to this problem, one of the guys in our IT department installed PC Anyway on my office PC. He configured it so that I could use the modem in my laptop to dial into my office PC and retrieve any files I might need. While this does give me access to my office PC, transferring large graphic files over a 56k modem can be EXTREMELY slow. Also it seems silly to me to suffer with dialup when my office is equipped with a DSL line.
To remedy this situation the IT department is going to be setting up a VPN server that will allow us to take advantage of the higher speed of our DSL line. Unfortunately, this isn't scheduled to be installed for a few months still, and I really need to get around this problem now. So my question is this -- is there any way for me to gain access to my office PC using our company's DSL line? I don't want anything too elaborate, just something I can use temporarily until our corporate VPN server is online. I'm desperate! Any ideas would be appreciated.
A. Your PC Anywhere software is actually quite versatile, and in addition to dialup, it can also be used with broadband services like DSL. However, as with VPN, it will require your IT department to spend a considerable amount of time configuring it, and considering that you have a VPN server on the way, it's probably not worth the effort. So if you really can't wait for the VPN server to be installed, I would suggest you look into a remote access solution called GoToMyPC.
GoToMyPC is a service that allows users to easily connect to their remote PCs, whether they're at home or behind a corporate firewall, using nothing more then a web browser and an Internet connection. Unlike PC Anywhere or a VPN solution, which can require a great deal of time and money to get properly configured, GoToMyPC can be installed and running in a matter of minutes.
GoToMyPC acts as a window to your host PC and lets you work on it with the same speed and efficiency as if you were sitting in front of it. This includes everything from checking e-mail to opening documents to browsing the network servers. Additionally, data on both the host PC and servers can easily be transferred to the client PC.
The reason this works behind a firewall is because the host PC maintains a connection to the GoToMyPC servers. When a remote user wants to connect to the host, they too log into the GoToMyPC network. This makes both systems members of the same network. A secure link is then created between them, thus granting them access to one another. All data transmitted between the client and host PC is sent using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) security. GoToMyPC doesn't require any software to be installed on the client PC, so you can use any system to connect to the host PC, even a public computer like those found in Internet cafes.
To get started, just download and install a small software application on the host PC. This application will then register and authenticate the host PC with the GoToMyPC's servers. GoToMyPC offers a free trial which includes unlimited remote access to one computer with up to 60 minutes of connection time for 30 days. After that, GoToMyPC can be purchased for about $19.95 a month. More information can be found at www.gotomypc.com.
One note of caution, before signing up for this service, I would highly recommend running it by your system administrator. Some companies have very strict security policies which prevent this type of service from being run on their network. In extreme cases, an employee can even be terminated for using such a program without authorization.
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